Academic: An Irish Language Act would be a long-term threat to the Union

On the matter of religious faith, the Union survived Sunday swings and will survive Sunday marathons, above. But an independent Irish Language Act would be perilous to the Union
On the matter of religious faith, the Union survived Sunday swings and will survive Sunday marathons, above. But an independent Irish Language Act would be perilous to the Union

DUP opposition to abortion under any circumstances, and to gay marriage, causes unionism to appear as cherry-picking hypocrisy.

It weakens the Union not only by diverging from UK law (putting the Irish border down the North Channel and the north Irish Sea) but also by setting their face against the compassionate liberalism in Great Britain and most western democracies.

John Wilson Foster is the author of twelve scholarly books on Irish literature and culture. He was born and raised in Belfast, educated in Oregon, taught at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and now lives in Co Down

John Wilson Foster is the author of twelve scholarly books on Irish literature and culture. He was born and raised in Belfast, educated in Oregon, taught at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and now lives in Co Down

Gay marriage and even limited abortion may, of course, affront MPs’ or MLAs’ religious or moral conscience.

But to help preserve the Union, they should separate their private faith from the public good, in the western tradition.

Besides, the election of the openly gay DUP candidate, Alison Bennington, instantly threw doubt on the claim that party policy was unchanged.

The freshman councillor has already enhanced the image of the DUP and so fractionally strengthened the Union.

Moreover, abortion and gay marriage are, healthily, cross-sectarian concerns.

And on the matter of religious faith: the Union survived Sunday swings and will survive Sunday marathons.

On the other hand, an independent Irish Language Act would be perilous in the long term to the Union.

I say that based on my knowledge of the Irish language in Irish republicanism since the 1890s and the political force of language laws in Canada. (UK language laws are invalid analogies whereas UK abortion and marriage laws are not.)

The campaign for an ILA is not driven chiefly by practical need, symbolic equality, or hunger for a human right currently withheld, but by political strategy.

Sinn Féin election posters — “keep the momentum” and “Irish unity” — conveniently identify the strategy and the destination.

The medium-term goal is to transform Northern Ireland culturally in pursuit of a constitutional end.

I hope it is unnecessary to state that being a friend to the Irish language (I personally have studied and written about Irish language writers) is not at all incompatible with opposition to Sinn Féin’s stark politicising of the indigenous language.

l Professor John Wilson Foster is the author of twelve scholarly books on Irish literature and culture